The ship docked on one of the outer pylons, and Amaru let them to the airlock.
Waiting in silence, time stretched out into an eternity, and at the end loomed the inevitable moment when they would discover Niht was a fraud. He didn’t know what would give him away, but there was no way he would get away with this much longer.
The hatch opened and a small Kilkonn smiled at them, the skin of her mouth pulled tight over her beaklike tooth plates. The back of her shell poked out of the collar of her white and gold robes. She waved at them with her web fingered hands.
“I am glad you arrived safely.” She spoke with a warm, inviting voice that sound much larger than she was. “I am Zosia, and I will be your guide through the temple. You must be tired after your journey, so I won’t keep you long today. I don’t know if any of you have found your oracle already. There will be various kinds in your dorm. Follow me.”
She waved her flipper like hand and walked off into the polished corridor.
Niht and Iarann locked eyes for a moment before sharing a deep sigh. They followed Zosia.
The passages in the station were covered with mosaics filled with abstract geometric patterns. Every detail from the gravity to the subtle movement of the air simulated a terrestrial temple. Only when they passed a window gazing out into the expanse of space did the reality of their situation set in.
Niht wasn’t sure what he expected. He’d never been on a space station before, but this was far from what he imagined. They passed several groups of people around his age with wide smiles on their faces. It dawned on him that he’d never seen the face of a Phersu before. The idea they smiled under those austere masks never occurred to him.
The more happy people he saw, the more he felt like a fraud. All these people wanted to be here. They chose this, believed in this. He just wanted to escape the war. Not exactly a noble start to this new phase of his life.
Zosia stopped outside a room and motioned for them to enter.
Bunkbeds lined the walls with their long sides facing out into the room. This room housed six people- the four in his party and the two already within.
Zosia excused herself and left.
Iarann and the other two introduced themselves to their fellow initiates, but Niht couldn’t stand to do it.
He took a top bunk in the back corner farthest away from the others as he could. He lay down, and hoped none of them noticed him.
“Nithwyn Scathaan?” A soft female voice called close to him.
Rolling over, he forced a smile at the six armed, gold skinned Tinh girl with her head bowed reverently.
Each set of arms made a different gesture of welcome. Her skin shimmered in a manner reminiscent of sunlight in the bottom of a shallow pool. “I’ve been waiting for you.” She said reverently.
“Did they tell you I was coming?”
She shook her head and her silky white hair fell in front of her eyes. Brushing it back with her top right hand, her cheeks lightened to a milky white. “No. Your name came to me in the runes, and I saw your face in my mind’s eye.” She blinked her six amethyst eyes and focused her attention on the floor. “Fate told me that you are going to help me find my true face.”
“Fate was wrong.” Niht rolled away from her and held his shoulders.
The Tinh girl gasped. “I may have misread it, but I know my fate is tied to you.”
“Then we are both doomed.” Niht said. He wanted to fall through the mattress into the void of space so he couldn’t hurt her.
“Why would you say that?” The pain overwhelmed her voice.
“Because, I am not supposed to be here. So, I guess that means that you aren’t supposed to be here either.”
“I don’t understand. We are here. That is our fate.”
“The Neevh said, *Fate cannot be changed because it has already happened.*” Iarann added his voice to the conversation.
“Since we are both here, it is fate.” The Tinh girl said.
Iarann introduced himself.
“My name is Amhran Onora, and we are bound to each other whether you like it or not Nithwyn.”
Niht huffed, rolled onto his back and sat up. “If you say so, I just hope you don’t regret that.”
Iarann laughed. “You are an odd gem. You’ve been tense since Amaru said we might not survive the trials. Don’t worry about the future. Learn to see the paths and choose the best one. That’s why we are here.”